Updated 07 November 2013

First all-diabetic cycling team to cycle 1200km in 48 hours

From 7 to 9 November 2013, a bit of history will be made on South African soil when an all-diabetic cycling team will cycle 1 200km in 48 hours to help raise diabetes awareness.

From 7 to 9 November 2013, a bit of history will be made on South African soil when an all-diabetic cycling team will cycle 1 200km in 48 hours to help raise diabetes awareness.

Team Novo Nordisk is the only team of its kind in the world that consists entirely of cyclists with type 1 diabetes. The team, of 16 cyclists from 10 different countries, will participate in the Changing Diabetes Cycling Challenge, an annual non-stop cycling marathon from Johannesburg to George.

Their mission? To help raise funds for children from disadvantaged communities to have reliable access to the diabetes medication and care they need.

Says Phil Southerland, CEO and co-founder of Team Novo Nordisk: "All the members of Team Novo Nordisk share a passion for competitive cycling and showing the world what's possible with great diabetes control. We are living proof that you can live your dreams, despite diabetes."

'Diabetes need not slow you down'

Type 1 diabetes requires the regular checking of blood glucose levels and insulin injections several times a day. Poorly managed diabetes can result in serious health problems such as blindness, cardiovascular disease kidney problems and nerve damage which could lead to amputation.

Because of the special care needed by diabetics, many people believe it's impossible for them to be serious athletes.

"It is our mission to prove that diabetes need not slow you down. If your diabetes is well-managed, there is nothing you can't do, including being a professional cyclist."

US-born Phil was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1982, when he was only seven months old. At the age of 12 he started cycling and soon discovered that it was an excellent way to help manage his health. He slowly climbed through the ranks as a junior and (later) senior cyclist, participating in various cycling challenges.

In 2005, he combined his love for cycling and mission to raise diabetes awareness to form the world's first all-diabetes sports team. All team members are serious athletes with well-controlled diabetes and the desire to educate, empower and inspire everyone affected by diabetes.

As diabetics, the cyclists face unique challenges.

"Our athletes have to be constantly worried about their blood sugar and some riders have to inject themselves with insulin during races. People without diabetes don't have the stress that goes with it," says Phil.

"However, the minute we put on our Team Novo Nordisk jerseys, diabetes is no longer an excuse for us. We take pride in the fact that we're going to win or lose the race because of our sporting merit and our team work, not because of diabetes."

Free testing

Free Diabetes screening and testing have been included as part of this year’s event. After departing in Rivonia, the team will stop over in Soweto and again in Kimberley.

Team Novo Nordisk has a traditional cycling medical team plus a specialist diabetes team that travel with them all the time.

The team has participated in many events around the world. A personal highlight for the team is the Tour du Rwanda, in which they will participate directly after the Changing Diabetes Cycling Challenge in South Africa. "It's a big target we've set ourselves this year," says Phil. 

Their long-term goal is to take part in the Tour de France one day. "We're aiming to do so in 2021, the year that will mark the 100th year anniversary of the discovery of insulin."

The team is being sponsored by Novo Nordisk, the world's leading company in diabetes care, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark.

For the latest news on Team Novo Nordisk and the Changing Diabetes Cycling Challenge, follow @TeamNovoNordisk and @Cycle4Diabetes on  Twitter or visit TeamNovoNordisk and ChangingDiabetesZA on Facebook.

For further information about the Changing Diabetes® Cycle Relay, Novo Nordisk and diabetes, visit

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